A Guiding Hand episode

Often when we speak about our developmental journey, we refer to the term growth. But, how in fact do we grow?

Consider your own growth over time:

What is or are your measures and yardsticks?

Though it may not be immediately apparent, one of our key measures for growth is the extent of our self-awareness. This is the degree to which we have ‘come to know’ ourselves. Self is not an absolute but more an emergent principle and experience.

We have established in previous conversations that often and especially when we feel under pressure, our attention span is greatly reduced. As a result, our self-awareness becomes limited, and our attention is confined, as we are aware of only a small fraction of who we really are. We then operate superficially.

Life’s journey is one through which we continually emerge and grow.

Commonly our attention is directed outward in seeking and searching for more.

Consider where you have placed and or directed your attention today?

Activities like searching for a new home, car, or holiday, filing or filling in forms for example may largely involve – a turning of our attention outward.

In marked contrast, the journey of ‘coming to know’ ourselves, invites the opposite, that is that we learn how to turn our attention inwards, and can inwardly reflect.

I name this learned ability – involution. Because it necessitates not only a learning of how to turn attention inward but also how this learned capacity may be essential to our growth and evolution. Involution therefore involves our ability to refocus and to turn our attention inward to practice the art of inner reflection and develop an expanded awareness.

It’s remarkable to consider, so ask yourself the question now – how well do you know yourself?

See how you respond to this question….

What is common to maybe all of us is how this coming to know ourselves more fully, invites an ever-deepening acquaintance and appears to be a lifelong endeavour. Developing self-awareness is both iterative and continuous. That is if we learn how to steal our attention back and away from outward distractions and to focus more intently on our inner exploration.

We have also established in previous conversations, how fear and judgment can impact how we view ourselves. For example, if there are aspects of ourselves that we and or others would judge to undesirable and therefore bad, then our temptation is likely to be to push away and reject them. Through such inner judgment, we divide our wholeness and create the experience of inner conflict. Once again, the way home, fostering the feeling of being at home in our own skin, involves our learning how to face into our fears and rather than push away and reject, to turn towards and instead accept those aspects of ourselves that we and or others may be tempted to judge. It is through our learned capacity to ‘turn towards’ that we foster a growing and deepening self-awareness and enable change.

We can now appreciate how our concepts of growth are intimately associated with a deepening self-awareness. A making conscious and including of the different aspects of ourselves that we meet along the way as we continually cultivate a growing sense of wholeness rather than feeling caught in conflict and experiencing division and separation.

Take some moments if you are willing, to turn your attention inward and to consider if there are aspects of yourself that others and or you may have previously negatively judged.

See if you can identify with any of these inner parts.

And rather than turning away, see if you can make with their acquaintance.

Note down if you wish, what aspects of yourself that you are discovering that may have been previously pushed away and how they appear. And what are their key characteristics?

You may wonder what is the value of this practice.

Take some moments to consider what is the gift of this practice is to you.

What does your ability to turn towards rather than away from different aspects of yourself offer you?

Take whatever time you need to respond.

In truth, our capacity to inwardly reflect is how we learn to relate.

Let me explain.

What we accept in ourselves we are then naturally able to relate to and meet in others. And the other side of this coin, what we reject in ourselves, we automatically judge in others.

Take some moments to ponder how this relational principle may be operating in your life.

The continual journey and opportunity to deepen your self-awareness is one where you equally and inevitably foster your ability to relate.

The photograph associated with these words was a moment beside one of the great lakes of Finland, where, from a night landscape of darkness and grey, the Lights suddenly appeared in all their glory and colour. What I found remarkable was the symmetry, being perfectly reflected in the mirror of the water. Which invited me to consider once again, the importance and beauty of reflection over the course of our lives. If we can learn how to practice: turning our attention inward and towards what we may previously judged and push away, we learn how to truly relate. We realise a remarkable symmetry that what we come to know and accept in ourselves we can embrace and relate to in others.

Let me offer you an example in my own developmental journey to illustrate this central principle. I have recently become aware of a part of me that has long been judged and rejected and its existence previously denied. I do wonder if this aspect of myself may be the most ‘less able’ aspect of me. This part of me first appeared and showed itself as a less able and quite disfigured child fearful of being seen and judged to be terribly lacking. Following our meeting I realised how much this aspect of me required care and attention. Both had not been given previously, only harsh judgment. My gradual deepening acquaintance with this aspect of me has been a journey of learning how to accept, embrace and ultimately even love this part of me. You might wonder if and how I have changed as a result of this deep inner work overtime?

The gift in this inner acquaintance I have experienced time and again, for when I come directly into the company of those around me who others may judge to be ‘less able’ – physically, mentally, socially ‘less able’ – what I experience is a natural association and equanimity. I feel a surging empathy and compassion and respect and admiration.

I have also become much more aware of when others I work with as a coach may have these aspects hidden within themselves. It seems that recognising this aspect of myself somehow permits a sensitivity to the presence of these fellow parts in others.

Take some moments based on my own story together with your own experiences to consider how knowing different aspects of yourself has permitted you to relate to others.

And how empathy and compassion may then replace the temptation to judge.

Rather than judge we can then normalise, embrace, and meet with.

What this teaches is how our capacity to relate appears to be learned from the inside out, once again what we can come to know and accept in ourselves, we quite naturally, embrace and can relate to in others.

Might our humanity be fashioned from the depth of our self-acceptance?

Consider this question carefully for yourself.

How do you respond to poverty?

Have you come to know the impoverished within you?

How do you respond to conflict and war?

Have you come to know the aspects of yourself you have judged and rejected?

These questions are deserving of contemplation.

May you continually aspire to deepen your self-awareness. To discover who you really are in and over time.

May you practice turning towards what you may be tempted to judge and push away – fostering a growing inner awareness and continue to deepen your capacity to relate.

May you end judgment of all those on the fringes of society – the less able, the disfigured, those in poverty – as we accept those aspects of ourselves that we are most tempted to judge and reject – the impoverished, the less able and disfigured.


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